The San Francisco 49ers released 21 players on Saturday, leaving their roster set at 53. This might be the most difficult day for coaches and players because of the talent that has to be cut. This level of talent was on display on the final preseason game when the 49ers beat the San Diego Chargers 41-6 in a game filled with backups and guys fighting for a spot on the team.
One of the more surprising cuts was that of Lavelle Hawkins. During the Chargers vs Niners game, Dan Fouts pointed out that Hawkins and all-pro punter Andy Lee both shared the number four. He later went to say that it clearly was not a good sign if shared a number with a guy that was already on the team.
Hawkins, who came out of nowhere, just kept making plays though, and many including me thought that the coaching staff would find a use for him. Both Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham are going to miss the first six game of the season due to injury, so that leaves Anquan Boldin and a bunch of unproven guys like Kyle Williams and rookie Quinton Patton. I would have assumed that there was room in this very thin receiver group for player like Hawkins who showed that he could make plays when the football is in his hands.
Long snapper Brian Jennings was another surprising cut. For the past 13 years one of the only constants in the entire 49er organization was Jennings. Not only is he very good at what he does (two time Pro-Bowler), but he was beloved by his teammates and the coaching staff. In a statement, Jennings said that the organization helped mold him into a man and had nothing to say except thanks. For the 49ers, this was a money move as Jennings was set to make $940,000. His replacement, rookie Kevin McDermott is “only” scheduled to make $405,000.
With the recent injury to LaMichael James (sprained MCL) that could sideline him for the first two games of the season, releasing Jewel Hampton was also a move that caught me off guard. Frank Gore in obviously the workhorse on the team but the man has taken a beating throughout his career. The 49ers have done a good job in assembling a talented running back core with Kendall Hunter and James, but because both of these guys have suffered significant injuries in the past, it would’ve made sense to keep a guy like Hampton around. Yes, Hampton does have injury concerns of his own but it is imperative to have depth during the long NFL season.
The 49ers’ front office made some tough decisions releasing some very talented individuals. Players like Hawkins and Hampton will most likely get picked up by other teams and will do well for those fortunate teams. It’s been said that this is the worst day in the entire NFL season, and for most players this saying is a reality.